to the United Nations
United Nations General Assembly
New York, New York
November 10, 2001
9:38 A.M. EST
Thank you. Mr. Secretary General, Mr. President, distinguished delegates, and
ladies and gentlemen. We meet in a hall devoted to peace, in a city scarred
by violence, in a nation awakened to danger, in a world uniting for a long struggle.
Every civilized nation here today is resolved to keep the most basic commitment
of civilization: We will defend ourselves and our future against terror and
The United Nations was founded in this cause. In a second world war, we learned
there is no isolation from evil. We affirmed that some crimes are so terrible
they offend humanity, itself. And we resolved that the aggressions and ambitions
of the wicked must be opposed early, decisively, and collectively, before they
threaten us all. That evil has returned, and that cause is renewed.
A few miles from here, many thousands still lie in a tomb of rubble. Tomorrow,
the Secretary General, the President of the General Assembly, and I will visit
that site, where the names of every nation and region that lost citizens will
be read aloud. If we were to read the names of every person who died, it would
take more than three hours.
Those names include a citizen of Gambia, whose wife spent their fourth wedding
anniversary, September the 12th, searching in vain for her husband. Those names
include a man who supported his wife in Mexico, sending home money every week.
Those names include a young Pakistani who prayed toward Mecca five times a day,
and died that day trying to save others.
The suffering of September the 11th was inflicted on people of many faiths and
many nations. All of the victims, including Muslims, were killed with equal
indifference and equal satisfaction by the terrorist leaders. The terrorists
are violating the tenets of every religion, including the one they invoke.
Last week, the Sheikh of Al-Azhar University, the world's oldest Islamic institution
of higher learning, declared that terrorism is a disease, and that Islam prohibits
killing innocent civilians. The terrorists call their cause holy, yet, they
fund it with drug dealing; they encourage murder and suicide in the name of
a great faith that forbids both. They dare to ask God's blessing as they set
out to kill innocent men, women and children. But the God of Isaac and Ishmael
would never answer such a prayer. And a murderer is not a martyr; he is just
Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting
September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will
remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash,
the last phone calls, the funerals of the children.
And the people of my country will remember those who have plotted against us.
We are learning their names. We are coming to know their faces. There is no
corner of the Earth distant or dark enough to protect them. However long it
takes, their hour of justice will come.
Every nation has a stake in this cause. As we meet, the terrorists are planning
more murder -- perhaps in my country, or perhaps in yours. They kill because
they aspire to dominate. They seek to overthrow governments and destabilize
Last week, anticipating this meeting of the General Assembly, they denounced
the United Nations. They called our Secretary General a criminal and condemned
all Arab nations here as traitors to Islam.
Few countries meet their exacting standards of brutality and oppression. Every
other country is a potential target. And all the world faces the most horrifying
prospect of all: These same terrorists are searching for weapons of mass destruction,
the tools to turn their hatred into holocaust. They can be expected to use chemical,
biological and nuclear weapons the moment they are capable of doing so. No hint
of conscience would prevent it.
This threat cannot be ignored. This threat cannot be appeased. Civilization,
itself, the civilization we share, is threatened. History will record our response,
and judge or justify every nation in this hall.
The civilized world is now responding. We act to defend ourselves and deliver
our children from a future of fear. We choose the dignity of life over a culture
of death. We choose lawful change and civil disagreement over coercion, subversion,
and chaos. These commitments -- hope and order, law and life -- unite people
across cultures and continents. Upon these commitments depend all peace and
progress. For these commitments, we are determined to fight.
The United Nations has risen to this responsibility. On the 12th of September,
these buildings opened for emergency meetings of the General Assembly and the
Security Council. Before the sun had set, these attacks on the world stood condemned
by the world. And I want to thank you for this strong and principled stand.
I also thank the Arab Islamic countries that have condemned terrorist murder.
Many of you have seen the destruction of terror in your own lands. The terrorists
are increasingly isolated by their own hatred and extremism. They cannot hide
behind Islam. The authors of mass murder and their allies have no place in any
culture, and no home in any faith.
The conspiracies of terror are being answered by an expanding global coalition.
Not every nation will be a part of every action against the enemy. But every
nation in our coalition has duties. These duties can be demanding, as we in
America are learning. We have already made adjustments in our laws and in our
daily lives. We're taking new measures to investigate terror and to protect
The leaders of all nations must now carefully consider their responsibilities
and their future. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda depend upon the aid or indifference
of governments. They need the support of a financial infrastructure, and safe
havens to train and plan and hide.
Some nations want to play their part in the fight against terror, but tell us
they lack the means to enforce their laws and control their borders. We stand
ready to help. Some governments still turn a blind eye to the terrorists, hoping
the threat will pass them by. They are mistaken. And some governments, while
pledging to uphold the principles of the U.N., have cast their lot with the
terrorists. They support them and harbor them, and they will find that their
welcome guests are parasites that will weaken them, and eventually consume them.
For every regime that sponsors terror, there is a price to be paid. And it will
be paid. The allies of terror are equally guilty of murder and equally accountable
The Taliban are now learning this lesson -- that regime and the terrorists who
support it are now virtually indistinguishable. Together they promote terror
abroad and impose a reign of terror on the Afghan people. Women are executed
in Kabal's soccer stadium. They can be beaten for wearing socks that are too
thin. Men are jailed for missing prayer meetings.
The United States, supported by many nations, is bringing justice to the terrorists
in Afghanistan. We're making progress against military targets, and that is
our objective. Unlike the enemy, we seek to minimize, not maximize, the loss
of innocent life.
I'm proud of the honorable conduct of the American military. And my country
grieves for all the suffering the Taliban have brought upon Afghanistan, including
the terrible burden of war. The Afghan people do not deserve their present rulers.
Years of Taliban misrule have brought nothing but misery and starvation. Even
before this current crisis, 4 million Afghans depended on food from the United
States and other nations, and millions of Afghans were refugees from Taliban
I make this promise to all the victims of that regime: The Taliban's days of
harboring terrorists and dealing in heroin and brutalizing women are drawing
to a close. And when that regime is gone, the people of Afghanistan will say
with the rest of the world: good riddance.
I can promise, too, that America will join the world in helping the people of
Afghanistan rebuild their country. Many nations, including mine, are sending
food and medicine to help Afghans through the winter. America has air-dropped
over 1.3 million packages of rations into Afghanistan. Just this week, we air-lifted
20,000 blankets and over 200 tons of provisions into the region. We continue
to provide humanitarian aid, even while the Taliban tried to steal the food
More help eventually will be needed. The United States will work closely with
the United Nations and development banks to reconstruct Afghanistan after hostilities
there have ceased and the Taliban are no longer in control. And the United States
will work with the U.N. to support a post-Taliban government that represents
all of the Afghan people.
In this war of terror, each of us must answer for what we have done or what
we have left undone. After tragedy, there is a time for sympathy and condolence.
And my country has been very grateful for both. The memorials and vigils around
the world will not be forgotten. But the time for sympathy has now passed; the
time for action has now arrived.
The most basic obligations in this new conflict have already been defined by
the United Nations. On September the 28th, the Security Council adopted Resolution
1373. Its requirements are clear: Every United Nations member has a responsibility
to crack down on terrorist financing. We must pass all necessary laws in our
own countries to allow the confiscation of terrorist assets. We must apply those
laws to every financial institution in every nation.
We have a responsibility to share intelligence and coordinate the efforts of
law enforcement. If you know something, tell us. If we know something, we'll
tell you. And when we find the terrorists, we must work together to bring them
to justice. We have a responsibility to deny any sanctuary, safe haven or transit
to terrorists. Every known terrorist camp must be shut down, its operators apprehended,
and evidence of their arrest presented to the United Nations. We have a responsibility
to deny weapons to terrorists and to actively prevent private citizens from
These obligations are urgent and they are binding on every nation with a place
in this chamber. Many governments are taking these obligations seriously, and
my country appreciates it. Yet, even beyond Resolution 1373, more is required,
and more is expected of our coalition against terror.
We're asking for a comprehensive commitment to this fight. We must unite in
opposing all terrorists, not just some of them. In this world there are good
causes and bad causes, and we may disagree on where the line is drawn. Yet,
there is no such thing as a good terrorist. No national aspiration, no remembered
wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Any government
that rejects this principle, trying to pick and choose its terrorist friends,
will know the consequences.
We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy
theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th; malicious lies that attempt
to shift the blame away from the terrorists, themselves, away from the guilty.
To inflame ethnic hatred is to advance the cause of terror.
The war against terror must not serve as an excuse to persecute ethnic and religious
minorities in any country. Innocent people must be allowed to live their own
lives, by their own customs, under their own religion. And every nation must
have avenues for the peaceful expression of opinion and dissent. When these
avenues are closed, the temptation to speak through violence grows.
We must press on with our agenda for peace and prosperity in every land. My
country is pledged to encouraging development and expanding trade. My country
is pledged to investing in education and combatting AIDS and other infectious
diseases around the world. Following September 11th, these pledges are even
more important. In our struggle against hateful groups that exploit poverty
and despair, we must offer an alternative of opportunity and hope.
The American government also stands by its commitment to a just peace in the
Middle East. We are working toward a day when two states, Israel and Palestine,
live peacefully together within secure and recognize borders as called for by
the Security Council resolutions. We will do all in our power to bring both
parties back into negotiations. But peace will only come when all have sworn
off, forever, incitement, violence and terror.
And, finally, this struggle is a defining moment for the United Nations, itself.
And the world needs its principled leadership. It undermines the credibility
of this great institution, for example, when the Commission on Human Rights
offers seats to the world's most persistent violators of human rights. The United
Nations depends, above all, on its moral authority -- and that authority must
The steps I described will not be easy. For all nations, they will require effort.
For some nations, they will require great courage. Yet, the cost of inaction
is far greater. The only alternative to victory is a nightmare world where every
city is a potential killing field.
As I've told the American people, freedom and fear are at war. We face enemies
that hate not our policies, but our existence; the tolerance of openness and
creative culture that defines us. But the outcome of this conflict is certain:
There is a current in history and it runs toward freedom. Our enemies resent
it and dismiss it, but the dreams of mankind are defined by liberty -- the natural
right to create and build and worship and live in dignity. When men and women
are released from oppression and isolation, they find fulfillment and hope,
and they leave poverty by the millions.
These aspirations are lifting up the peoples of Europe, Asia, Africa and the
Americas, and they can lift up all of the Islamic world.
We stand for the permanent hopes of humanity, and those hopes will not be denied.
We're confident, too, that history has an author who fills time and eternity
with his purpose. We know that evil is real, but good will prevail against it.
This is the teaching of many faiths, and in that assurance we gain strength
for a long journey.
It is our task -- the task of this generation -- to provide the response to
aggression and terror. We have no other choice, because there is no other peace.
We did not ask for this mission, yet there is honor in history's call. We have
a chance to write the story of our times, a story of courage defeating cruelty
and light overcoming darkness. This calling is worthy of any life, and worthy
of every nation. So let us go forward, confident, determined, and unafraid.